Food Stamp Cutbacks Hit Thousands of Montanans

By Beacon Staff

HELENA – Advocates say it is too soon to end a temporary increase in government-provided food assistance that’s set to expire Nov. 1.

The U.S. Department of Agriculture said roughly 130,000 Montanans will see reductions in their Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program, commonly known as food stamps.

Advocates estimate an 8 percent reduction in monthly benefits, or about $10 per month out of the average benefit of $124 per person.

The increase was originally put in place as part of the federal stimulus efforts.

The Montana Budget and Policy Center said it is too early to cut the benefits as many have not recovered from the economic crisis. Efforts to extend the stimulus further have stalled in Congress.

Jackie Semmens, a policy analyst for the Montana Budget and Policy Center, said a Montana family of three will have $29 less a month for food.

“This increase in SNAP benefits has meant tens of thousands of families in Montana do not have to choose between buying medicine or cooking dinner, keeping the lights on or feeding kids breakfast,” Semmens said. “As we are still climbing out of the worst economic crisis since the Great Depression, now is not the time to cut back on a program that benefits Montana workers, families and economy.”

In total, the reduction will result in about $13 million less going to Montana recipients.

“SNAP keeps people out of poverty,” Semmens said. “The majority of recipients, who are able to work, do. And for those who are struggling to find work or work at a job that doesn’t pay enough, SNAP is a vital lifeline.”

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